Ibn Rustam reports that in 261‑3/875‑6 the people of Dinawar collected
16,000 dinars, which were entrusted to a certain Ahmad
b. Muhammad al-ｭDinawari. At Qarmisin(1)
he collected 1,000 dinars more and some garments. After
an intensive search in Baghdad and Sdmarra, he received
in Samarra a letter describing the money and other items
and ordering him to take them to `Uthman b. Sa`id and to
follow his instructions. The latter ordered al‑Dinawari
to hand over the items to al‑Qattan(2).
It is reported that al‑Qattan had dealings with an agent
in Tus called al‑Hasan b. al‑Fadl b. Zayd al‑Yamani.
According to alｭ Mufid, al‑Yamani used to deal with
al‑Qattan as if he were the Saf段r(3).
The third agent of the Saf段r in Baghdad was Hajiz. His relations with a
large number of agents indicate that he held a high
position in the organization. He was perhaps the
connecting link between the agents in the eastern
provinces and the Saf段r in Baghdad, especially since
al‑Saduq and al‑Kulayni mention certain persons from the
cities of Balkh and Marv who contacted the Imam and his
Saf段r through Hajiz(4).
While the first Saf段r seems to have led the affairs of the organization
in Baghdad with the help of his three assistants, he may
also have directly supervised the activities of his
agents in the other main cities, such as al‑Mada in,
Kufa, Wasit, Basra and al‑Ahwaz. In the last of these
the leadership of the Wikala had been in the hands of
Banu Mazyar or Mahzayar from the time of the ninth Imam.
Al‑Kashshi reports that the agent of the Imam in
al‑Ahwaz, Ibrahim b. Mazyar, had collected a large
amount of money.
On his deathbed he revealed to his son Muhammad a special secret code and
ordered him to hand the money over to the person who
would disclose to him his knowledge of this code.
Al‑Kashshi adds that when Muhammad arrived at Baghdad,
al‑`Umari the Saf段r came to him and divulged to him the
exact code, so he handed the money over to him(5).
It is clear from this report that the first Saf段r had
already agreed on the code with Ibrahim al‑Mazyar so as
to save the organization from infiltration and misuse by
false agents. According to al‑Kulayni and al‑Mufid, a
few days later Muhammad received a letter of promotion
indicating that he was installed in the post of his
father in al‑Ahwaz(6).
This underground system of communication between the Saf段r in Baghdad
and the agent in al‑Ahwaz was similar to other such
systems which existed at this stage between the Saf段r
and his other agents in Iraq, such as Banu al‑Rakuli in
6.2 The Second Area: Egypt, the Hijaz and Yemen
The main centre for the organization in this area seems to have been
Medina. It is reported that al‑ `Askari had many agents
there amongst the `Alids (al‑Talibiyyin). However, after
al‑ `Askari's death, some of them denied the existence
of his son, the Twelfth Imam. According to al‑Kulayni,
those who held that al‑ `Askari had left a son received
letters confirming them in their posts, whereas the
deniers did not receive such letters which showed that
they were dismissed from their posts in the Wikala(8).
Another report indicates that the principal agent in Medina in 264/877‑8
was Yahya b. Muhammad al‑ `Arid(9).
Unfortunately, the sources neither explain how the
Saf段r in Baghdad used to contact his agents in Hijaz,
nor do they refer to the connecting links among the
agents of Egypt, Hijaz and Yemen. However, it is most
likely that the agents used the occasion of the
pilgrimage to communicate with each other(10).
But it seems that the Saf段r did not keep in direct contact with his
agent in Medina and preferred to employ slaves who were
mostly ignorant and irreligious as the connecting link.
He did this to keep the attention of the authorities
away from such activities.
The agents in Egypt followed the instructions of the agents in Hijaz,
especially as regards their contact with the centre in
Iraq. AlｭKulayni reports a narration attributed to
al‑Hasan b. `Isa al‑ Aridi, who was probably the agent
He says that after the death of al‑ Askari, an Egyptian
came to Mecca with money for the Imam, but was confused
because some people held that al‑ `Askari had died
without a son and that the Imam was his brother Ja断ar,
whereas other people informed him that al‑ `Askari had,
in fact, left a successor.
Afterwards he sent a certain person called Abu Talib to Samarra with a
letter, probably a recommendation from the agent in
Mecca. In Samarra Abu Talib first contacted Ja断ar,
asking him for proof so that he could accept his
Imamate, but Ja`far could not produce any. Therefore he
went to the Gate (Bab, deputy), who gave him a strong
proof that he was the rightful representative of the new
Imam (the Twelfth), by revealing to him that his master,
the Egyptian, had entrusted him with money to deal with
according to his wish. For this reason Abu Talib handed
over the money to the Bab and received a letter in reply
to his letter(12).
Perhaps the agent in Mecca had sent forward complete information
concerning the case of his Egyptian colleague.
Yemen was a traditional region for Shi `ite tendencies. Al‑Hadi had had
agents there since 248/862,(13)
and there were agents who had direct contact with
`Uthman b. Said during the time of al‑ Askari(14).
According to al‑Kulayni, the chief agent in Yemen during the time of the
Twelfth Imam was Ja`far b. Ibrahim, who was related to a
family working in the Imamite organization in Hamadan,
Kufa and Yemen(15).
A report mentioned by al‑Najashi indicates that the
connecting link between the agents in Yemen and the
first Saf段r was `Ali b. al‑Husayn al‑Yamani(16).
6.3 The Third Area: Azerbayjan and Arran
The third area was Azerbayjan. According to Muhammad alｭ-Safwani(17),
the agent there was al‑Qasim b. al‑ `Ala, who had held
the post from the time of al‑Hadi and who continued his
activities from the province of Arran(18)
during the time of the Twelfth Imam. The Twelfth Imam
remained in touch with al‑Qasim until the latter died
during the time of the third Saf段r, when his post was
given to his son alｭ Hasan at the Twelfth Imam's order.
Al‑Safwani does not mention the name of the connecting
link between the agent of this area and the centre of
the organization. However, he states explicitly that
alｭ-Qasim b. al‑`Ala was in direct contact with the
Saf段r in Iraq through a messenger, who used to deal
with him without revealing his name(19).
6.4 The Fourth Area: Qumm and Dinawar
It is well‑known that Qumm was a traditional area for the Shi段tes, the
bulk of whom were Arab(20),
and that there were many endowments (awqaf) for the
Imams in Qumm. Therefore, it probably received more
attention from the first Saf段r, who used to keep in
direct contact not only with the agent of Qumm but also
with the other agents in the province of Jabal.
The prominent agent in Qumm was `Abd Allah b. Ja断ar al‑Himyari(21),
who remained in this post during the time of the second
Moreover, there were many subｭ agents in numerous cities
with a considerable Imamite population, such as Dinawar,
whose agent in 261‑3/875‑6 was Ahmad b. Muhammad
al‑Dinawari. The agent in Qurmisin was Ahmad alｭ-Madra`i(23).
6.5 The Fifth Area: Rayy and Khurasan
Al‑Kashshi's account of the situation of the organization during the time
of the tenth and the eleventh Imams indicates that the
latter had several agents in various cities in Khurasan
and the eastern provinces, extending as far as the city
of Kabul. Those agents, along with other sub‑agents,
used to carry out their missions according to the direct
instruction of the Imam. For example, al‑`Askari sent
Ayyub b. al‑Nab to Nisapur as his agent(24).
However, the penetration of the movement into remote regions of the east,
the rise of the Zaydite state in Tabaristan from
250/864, and the continual military activities of the
Khawarij in Sijistan, which caused a great deal of
trouble for Imamites(25),
all helped make it difficult for al‑ `Askari to
supervise directly the activities in each area.
Therefore al‑ `Askari issued a letter ordering the
activities of the agents in Bayhaq and Nisapur to be
linked with those of the agents in Rayy so that the two
former cities could only receive his instructions from
the agent in Rayy, who was to take his orders directly
from `Uthman b. Said in Samarra.
According to this letter al‑ `Askari appointed Ishaq b. Muhammad as his
agent in Nisapur, commanding him to pay the dues to
Ibrahim b. `Abda, his agent in Bayhaq and its districts.
The latter in turn was commanded to hand the dues to the
agent of Rayy, Muhammad b. Ja断ar al‑Razi or to the
person appointed by al‑Razi. At the end of his letter
the Imam pointed out that all the khums and other taxes
which were sent by his followers should be given to
`Uthman b. Said, who would then hand them to him(26).
Such a statement reveals that `Uthman b. Said was at the
top of the organization before the death of al‑`Askari
After the death of al‑ `Askari the first Saf段r followed the system of
communication which had been practiced before. Several
anecdotes reveal that he directed the activities of this
area through the agent in Rayy, al‑Rgazi, who in turn
directly supervised the activities of the agents in
and perhaps Hamadan. There were many sub‑agents of
different ranks below the main agent in each city.
Al‑Najashi reports a narration which elucidates this
system. He mentions that al‑Qasim b. Muhammad
al‑Hamadani, Bistam b. `Ali and `Aziz b. Zuhayr were
sub‑agents in one place in Hamadan and carried out their
task under the instructions and commands of alｭ-Hasan b.
Harun b. `Umran al‑Hamadani(28).
Al‑Najashi does not explain how the latter used to
contact the Saf段r.
Al‑Kulayni, however, reports that Muhammad b. Harun b. `Umran
al‑Hamadani, the brother of the agent of Hamadan, made
his shops an endowment (waqf) to the Twelfth Imam and
wanted to hand them over to his agent, whose identity
was unknown to him. Thereafter Muhammad b. Ja断ar
al‑Razi, the agent of Rayy, received an order to take
these shops as waqf
(29)in his capacity as wakil for the whole of
Iran. This narration reveals that there was a strong
link between the agent of Rayy and the agent of Hamadan
and that the latter was below al‑Razi in the ranks of
Since the agents in this area held different ranks within the
organization, it is most likely that this system existed
in the other areas of the organization as well.
7. The Death of the First Saf段r
Despite the important role of the first Saf段r, `Uthman b. Said, no one
gives the date of his death. Modern historians have
tried to supply plausible dates. Hashim al‑Hasani thinks
that the deputyship (al-ｭsifara) of `Uthman b. Said
continued until the year 265/879,(31)
but he does not give any source for this information. In
contrast Javad Ali states as follows:
"Twenty years after the withdrawal of the Twelfth Imam, in the year
280/893, the first Saf段r died, according to a tawqi,
said to have been addressed by the hidden Imam to the
son of the first Saf段r and the Shi`ite congregation, in
which after expressing sentiments of condolence on the
death of such a pious man, the Imam appointed his son
Abu Ja断ar (Muhammad) as his successor."(32)
However, Javad Ali relied on al‑Tusi, who only indicates that the
narrator, Muhammad b. Humam, heard the narration from
Muhammad al‑Razi in 280/893; he does not cite any date
for the death of the first Saf段r(33).
Furthermore, it seems that the first Saf段r did not remain in office for
a long period, because al‑Tusi reports that when
Muhammad b. `Uthman (Abu Ja`far) succeeded his father, a
certain Ahmad b. Hilal al‑ Abarta'i, whose death
occurred in 267/880‑1,(34)
denied that Abu Ja断ar was the Saf段r of the Twelfth
Imam after his father.(35)
" Hence the death of the first Saf段r must have occurred
after 260/874, the date of the death of the eleventh
Imam, and before 267/880.
According to Ibn Barina, `Uthman b. Sa`id was buried on the western side
of Baghdad in the Darb Mosque. This mosque takes its
name from its position at Darb Jibla, an avenue in the
Al‑Tusi confirms Ibn Barina's report when he states that
he saw the grave in a place which he used to visit every
month between the years 404/1013 and 433/1040.(37)
The Underground Activities of the Second Saf段r of the Twelfth Imam
1. The Designation of the Second Saf段r, Abu Ja断ar
second Saf段r was Muhammad b. `Uthman b. Said al‑`Umari.
His kunya was Abu Ja断ar. He carried out his activities
first as the agent of the Twelfth Imam and then as his
Saf段r for about fifty years, having been the principal
assistant of his father, the first Saf段r, from the time
of the eleventh Imam, al‑ `Askari. According to al‑Tusi,
when the first Saf段r died, Abu Ja断ar carried out the
last rites for the dead man, washed the corpse, clad him
in his shroud and buried him.
(1)Qarmisin: A small town in
the province of Jabal about thirty‑one farsakhs
from Hamadan. Ibn Khurdadhba, al‑Masalik
wa‑l‑Mamalik (Leiden, 1889), 41, 198.
(2)Bihar, LI, 300‑3; Dala'il,
(3)al‑Irshad, 399. For the
relations of al‑Qattan with the eastern
provinces, see Ikhtiyar, 535.
(4)Kama値, 488, 499; al-Kafi,
I, 521; Bihar, LI, 294, 295‑6.
(6)al-Kafi, I, 518; al‑Irshad,
(7)al‑Fusul al‑`Ashara, 17;
According to al‑Mufid Banu al‑Rakuli were the
agents of the Imam in Kufa; however, after the
death of the first Saf段r, the sources begin to
refer to Banu Zuzara and Banu al‑Zajawzji as the
agents in Kufa. The two different names seem to refer to
one family. Perhaps the correct spelling of this
name is but
the copyist of al‑Mufid's work misread it as .
T. al-Ghayba, 198‑200.
(9)Kama値, 496‑7; al‑Saduq
reports that al‑`Aridi knew the place of the
twelfth Imam in Medina and guided a person from
Kashmir to the Imam; Kama値, 497, 440.
(12)al-Kafi, I, 523. Al‑Mufid
relates the same report but both of them did not
give the name of the agent of the Imam in
Samarra, al‑Irshad, 401.
(13)Ikhtiyar, 527; al-Kafi, I,
(17)According to al‑Tusi, al‑Safwani
was the assistant of al‑Qasim b. al‑`Ala during
the time of the third Saf段r; another report
indicates that he met the second Saf段rin
Baghdad in 307/919; T. al-Ghayba, 203‑5
(18)Al‑Safwani reports that
Arran was a city in Azerbayjan, but it is well
known among the geographers that Arran is a
province and that its capital was Barda`. It is
included in the great triangle of land lying to
the west of the junction point ofthe rivers
Ayrus (Kur) and Araxas (al‑Ras); T. al-Ghayba,
(20)Ibn Hawqal, al‑Masalik wa‑l‑Mamalik,
264; al‑Subki, op. cit., III, 230, 233.
(21)T. al-Ghayba, 229‑30.
(23)Bihar, LI, 300, quoted
from Kitab al‑Nujum.
(24)Ikhtiyar, 542‑3, 527.
indicates that the relations between the
Khawarij and the Imamites in Sijistan were
tense. He states that al‑Fadl b. Shadhan escaped
from the Khawarij when they attacked Bayhaq, but
he died during his escape; Ikhtiyar, 543. Al‑Isfahani
reports that the Khawarij killed an `Alid called
Muhammad b. Ja`far b. Muhammad; Maqatil, 453.
(26)Ikhtiyar, 509‑10, 575‑8.
(27)al-Kafi, I, 523‑4;
Ikhtiyar, 509‑10, 575‑80.
(30)Although there is no clear
statement concerning the links between al‑Razi
and Hamadan. there is ample evidence that al‑Razi
controlled the activities of all the agents in
Iran, so it is more than probable that he
directed those of al‑Hasan b. Harun, especially
in view of this narration.
(31)Hashim al‑Hasam, op. cit.,
(32)Javad Ali op. cit., in Der
Islam, XXV (1939), 205.
(36)T. al-Ghayba, 232.
Although Ibn Barina states that the location of
the grave was on the western side of Baghdad,
today there is a grave within a mosque located
in an avenue leading to the Maydan crossroad on
the eastern side of Baghdad. The Imamites
believe that this is the grave of `Uthman b.